Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Photos from Fenton Street

These photos were taken today - snow event +11

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ten Days Later...

The Exxon on Thayer and Fenton plowed theur lot clear - but moved the anow over the sidewalks. MCDOT plowed the intersection and did the same thing - push the snow over the sidewalks. Ten days later, and the ramps at this intersection are still blocked with plowed snow and ice? '
What's the excuse this time? Everyone too busy to go back and pick-up the slack? Can't someone besides me see this? Is it really true that MC will only respond to complaints?

Monday, December 28, 2009

An Example of Something that Worked,

I took this photo on Sunday - eight days after 24-inches of snow.

Two years ago I asked MCDOT to make this section of sidewalk wider - mostly so that it would be easier for ME to shovel. Well, last year they did what I asked and widened this section.

As you can see, the wider sidewalk means that less of the walkwayis covered by plowed snow. Imagine this walkway three feet narrower.

This worked like a charm. Thanks KB!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Montgomery County to Pedestrians: "You're on your own..."

After making a number of calls and sending a few emails it became clear to me that Montgomery County wasn’t going to do anything to help me clear the sidewalks near my house – sidewalks I need to get to Metro, Safeway, Downtown Silver Spring, and elsewhere. In order to get where I am going I have to walk in the street, or cut through the ice and snow myself. So, I did it myself.

It took three hours of continuous hard work to get the way clear to the Ride-on bus stop at 850 Sligo Avenue. I still didn’t make it to Fenton – maybe tomorrow. Dozens of people walked by in the street while I was working. A Ride-on Bus let someone out with no way to the sidewalk and drove off, leaving them to fend-off the cars behind. This is an atrocious situation that is so very dangerous – people walking home from work in the street at dusk. A recipe for disaster.

I called my Councilmember, the Director of the Regional Services Center, another person at RSC, and Jeff Dunckel. I was told that MCDOT is not “resourced” to clear snow plowed on to sidewalks. BULL. This is a training situation, not a resource issue. Plow operators can be trained not to cover intersections with three-foot-high Ice Dams while they are plowing. ”There is nothing we can do,” is just not an acceptable answer.

Montgomery County has am obligation to make the ROW accessible for all users after a winter storm. Sure, it takes a couple of extra days to get sidewalks cleared, but it is now FOUR DAYs LATER and sidewalks in MC are still blocked. Thousands of Pedestrians are walking in MC streets RIGHT NOW. This is an atrocious situation and a recipe for disaster.

Too bad for you pedestrians. You will just have to deal with it the best way you can. If that means spending several hours digging-out your neighbors’ walks and local Ride-on stops, so be it. As second-class citizens, you pedestrians are on you own. I am a blind guy who had to dig himself out because the County wouldn’t respond to my pleas for help.

I have done my part today – trying to make-up for the lack of responsibility and consideration of others. Still, you can’t seriously expect pedestrians – including the elderly, children, or people with disabilities - to be the front-line for digging-out their transportation system themselves, can you? I guess you can – at least in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Human Snowplow

This morning, my son and i set out to clear the sidewalks from our house to Fenton St. Unfortunately, the new sidewalks on either side of Woodbury run along the side of two properties, not the front. So, these property owners are not required by law to shovel their walks.

This stretch includes about 80 ft. of sidewalk and two intersection ramps. This was entirely covered by snow and ice plowed from the road surface. In particular, the intersection was three feet thick with hard ice plowed from the street.

We got as far as we could, but when we reached the Berg at Woodbury, we were forced to admit that this was more than the two of us could handle. I called Rich Romer in Councilmember Ervin’s office and asked what I should do. He said he would check into this and call me back. I told him I would put some photos up for him here.

Later, Rich called and told me that he had talked with Volunteer Services – as instructed by the County’s website – and was told that they no longer coordinate snow removal with the Fire Department( I was not aware that the Fire Department was doing this). He told me that they suggested that I call the Silver Spring Fire Department directly. I told Rich that I really didn’t feel comfortable doing that – especially considering the size of the job.

I sent an email to Mel Tull at the Silver Spring Regional Services Center to ask if the “Red Shirts" could go 80-feet down Sligo with some equipment to get this stretch open. Otherwise, you can't get there from here - at least, not without walking in the street.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

(online location)

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Failing to plan..."

First of all, I want to thank Jeff Dunckel for everything he has done to bring about a mutually-beneficial solution to the situation. I hope it works! I am sure that I was the least-calm person involved in this, but Jeff took it in-stride and always worked to improve the situation, rather than make things worse. Montgomery County should be grateful that they have him. I know I am.

PEPCO and MCDOT met in front of my home on Monday morning, and agreed upon a new course of action that would bring this segment of sidewalk more into compliance with ADA guidelines. PEPCO is putting the new poles in the parking lanes – closer to the center of the ROW. MCDOT will come behind and extend the sidewalk out two feet into the parking lane. There should be plenty of room on this newly-widened sidewalk.

Furthermore, I am very hopeful that MCDOT will quickly develop a self-evaluation and transition plan for utility poles in County ROW.

MDSHA needs to do the same. They have detailed transition plans for a lot of issues, such as; ramps, APS, crosswalks, etc. There is nothing in there plan about utility poles. Given that there are probably thousands of utility poles like this one in the middle of a sidewalk – MDSHA needs to address this issue immediately. Until then, MDSHA is in violation of federal law –sec. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Barden v. City of Sacramento, CA
On January 22, 2004, the court granted final approval of the settlement in Barden v. Sacramento. This case set a nationwide precedent requiring cities and other public entities to make all public sidewalks accessible. As a result of the court's ruling in this case, public entities must address barriers such as missing or unsafe curb cuts throughout the public sidewalk system, as well as barriers that block access along the length of the sidewalks. Following the court victory, the parties reached a settlement addressing all sidewalk barrier issues City-wide. The settlement provides that for up to 30 years, the City of Sacramento will allocate 20% of its annual Transportation Fund to make the City's pedestrian rights-of-way accessible to individuals with vision and/or mobility disabilities. This will include installation of compliant curb ramps at intersections; removal of barriers that obstruct the sidewalk, including narrow pathways, abrupt changes in level, excessive cross slopes, and overhanging obstructions
; and improvements in crosswalk access.

USDOJ amicus briefs filed with the courts in support of the appellants (Barden):

MDSHA should know this already, because they just took a knock from FHWA for APS.

Finally, let me just say that I am tired. The last week has worn me out. The next time you feel resentment from something you read here, remember than I am not having fun, I’m not getting paid, and I don’t have an assistant or team working for me (well, MCDOT, sometimes). I am doing this because I think it is the right thing to do. I am not looking for trouble – trouble is looking for me.
(I moved inside because I didn't want to be a distraction to the workers.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"X" Marks the Spot

I spent Tuesday on the phone – pleading and threatening as a crew took steps to replace the utility pole in front of my house with another one. Of course, they did it all wrong. No thought what ever given to how the installation would impact pedestrians – even though I have been talking about it for two years straight. How did this happen? It’s a mystery that no one seems to fathom.

Fortunately, there was no hostility. Everyone was polite. Them fellas was from Tennessee, so I put on my best North Carolina accent and we got along just fine. Of course, how could anyone expect a crew from Tennessee to know local conditions in Montgomery County? I first talked with a dusty, bearded man with a concrete saw yesterday morning. He told me lots of things about what they were doing. I asked where they wanted him to put the hole for the new pole. He said, as he pointed to two spots on the ground,” I thought I might put it right here, or right there.” So, This guy from Tennessee with the saw in his hand is the same guy who decides where the hole goes. I tried to talk to him about ADA, and things like wheelchair clearance, but he didn’t seem too interested.

I really thought that I might end-up in jail, because I was going to get this project stopped – one way or another. If I hand to stand in the hole until law enforcement came to take me away, I was ready. I think I was ready, anyway.

PEPCO was having trouble figuring-out who was doing the work. Early in the afternoon I got a call from a Mr. White with PEPCO. He asked if I knew the name of the contractor, because he couldn’t find who would be working in the area. I told him that I was visually impaired, and couldn’t read the name on the trucks, so I took the phone outside and gave it to one of the crew. That’s right, PEPCO didn’t even know they were there. PEPCO found out they were there by calling ME. Montgomery County doesn’t know they are there? PEPCO doesn’t know they are there? Everyone is conveniently in the dark as we ignore ADA.

X marks the spot where this one battle takes place. It seems insignificant – even trivial. But this one pole stands for the thousands of utility poles that spring-up in our sidewalks. Poles that are invisible obstacles. Invisible because we choose not to see them. In a place like Silver Spring, we need new eyes- eyes that see these obstacles for what they are. Eyes that look for proactive solutions, rather than excuses. As a pedestrian, I am tired of being treated like a hot potato – tossed from one agency, department, committee, or coalition to another – only to find more excuses. Tired of being told that progress takes time. Tired of going to meeting after meeting where the topics never change and the results never measure-up.

X marks the high-water mark. This is where I stopped it – if only for a day. Anyone with me?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Walking Backwards

As expected, a PEPCO contractor started cutting concrete and diggina hole for the new poles next to the old one. I got on the phone and called a few people – anyone who could get them to stop and take a closer look at what they awere doing.

Late in the day they installed the new pole, which is larger than the old one by a few inches, and is blocking even more of the sidewalk. I have not had a chance to look at the others yet, but I expect similar situations.

Tomorrow MCDOT aand PEPCO will meet on my street to look at the situation and discuss solutions.